Practicing the Promises of God
February 8th, 1989 @ 7:30 PM
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-8-89 7:30 p.m.
Once again we welcome the multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on KCBI, our great radio station. In our preaching through the Book of Genesis, we are in chapter 28. It records one of the most vivid and dramatic of all the visions in the Word of God, and it ends in a most unusual way. And the pastor’s message tonight will concern that ending. Genesis 28, beginning at verse 10:
And Jacob went out from Beersheba, toward Haran—
up there at the top of the Mesopotamian Valley—
And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night . . . and he took the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth—
a great staircase made out of stone—
The top of it reached to heaven: and the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
And the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, east, north, south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed—
and that includes us—
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and said, Surely, surely the Lord is in this place . . . And he was afraid—
he was awestruck—
and he said, How dreadful is this place—
how awesome is this place—
this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillow, set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
And he called the name of that place Bethel—
the house of God—
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, will give me bread to eat, and raiment to wear,
And I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord Jehovah be my God:
And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be Bethel—
the house of God—
and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.
An amazing conclusion! “And of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:22]. The title of the message Practicing the Promises of God.
All of us are aware of a Monday. It was October 19 in ‘87, the black day of a stock market crash. It was a meltdown. The Dow average of the stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange fell 508.86 points. And there were 600 million shares traded, and the loss in that one day was billions and billions of dollars.
But to the child of God, whatever the providence, God is taking care and watching over. “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest” [Genesis 28:15]. And the sign of that contract between God and Jacob, Israel, was, “Of all that You give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee” [Genesis 28:22]. God’s part of that contract, “I will take care of you. I will see you through” [Genesis 28:15]. And Israel’s part of that contract, “Of everything You place in my care and keeping, one tenth of it I will sacredly dedicate to Thee” [Genesis 28:22].
The practice of that carries with it amazing concomitance. The basic foundation for what I shall do is this: that everything I possess is mine only in trust. All of it comes from God, and it all belongs to God. My life, my breath, my days, all that I have, all of it belongs to God. And as such I must be a good steward, a good tenant, a good servant. God is counting on me, depending upon me. He builds His churches, and He teaches our children, and He evangelizes the world through my stewardship, preaching, teaching, healing, helping, the advancement of the kingdom of peace and of righteousness and of brotherhood, the whole summation of what it means to serve God.
I know you have heard the story of Gabriel, who welcomed our Lord Jesus back to heaven after He had died for our sins and was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]; that is, to keep us saved. Gabriel welcomed our Lord back to heaven, and Gabriel said to Him, “Lord, You know what a glorious thing You have done. And how is the world to know it, there in that little hidden corner of Palestine?”
And the Lord replies, “Gabriel, I am depending upon My disciples to tell the world, to make it known.” And Gabriel says, “But Lord what if they fail?” And the Lord replies, “Gabriel, I have no other plan.”
I must invest and I must use what God gives me wisely. It’s not mine. It belongs to God. If I have any strength, if I have any length of days, if I have any life, if I have any possessions, all of it comes from God, and I cannot use it foolishly, or wastefully, or unwisely.
I often wonder, how could anyone who is a child of God take what God gives him and spend it, say, on liquor or on gambling? And as you know, in this state of Texas we’re going to be flooded with racetracks; all the areas of the state will be accessible to those who gamble on horses. How does a Christian do that? This is a gift from God, what I have, and I must use it for the Lord; I am accountable to Him. And as a faithful steward, I must set aside a definite proportion of what God gives me; I owe it to the Lord. It belongs to Him, everything I have; but God says, “Just a part you dedicate to Me.” And when I do that, I thus acknowledge, one, that God is sovereign owner; everything I have is His. Number two: that I am but a steward. I’m His servant, and I must someday render an accounting unto Him, the great Judge of the earth, for what I have done [2 Corinthians 5:11]; that I must guard against selfishness and greed and worldliness, and that I must thus follow the pattern of the Lord God who does all His work by plan.
God does not do anything by impulse, or adventitiously, or on the spur of the moment, but God does everything by system. You can count on it, that the sun will rise at a certain time and that the sun will set at a certain time. You can count on it that there will be seasons during the year. You can count on it that God will build the life of a baby according to a certain way. God does everything by system and by plan. And I am following the Lord when I do that. I must therefore faithfully set aside not less than one tenth of what God gives me [Genesis 28:22].
Here is a letter that I read from a noble layman:
I am glad to bear testimony to the enrichment of my own spiritual life through systematic giving. For several years I have kept an entirely separate bank account which I call the Lord’s account.
In that account I deposit every month one-fifth of my income. In that way, I divest my mind entirely of any need to consider whether I can give or not. The giving is already been done. I have set it aside for Him—
He not a tenth, but twice as much, a fifth.
The above method I adopted after talking it over with my wife, and has proven to be a great blessing to us both.
You say, “That’s splendid for a rich man, but I am so poor, how could I do a thing like that?”
There was a young fellow that came up to his pastor and said, “Pastor, I am entering a business, and I want you to get down on your knees with me here and ask God to bless me in my business. And you tell God that if He will bless me, I will faithfully give my one tenth to Him.”
So the pastor gladly knelt down by the young fellow and asked God to bless his business. And he said, “And the young man will faithfully give one-tenth of everything that he makes to Thee.”
Well, the Lord blessed him. He always does. God blessed him. God watched over him. God hallowed his efforts, God increased. God was with him and the young fellow grew in riches and in riches. And finally he came to the pastor and said, “Pastor, this tenth has grown so large, I can’t give it to the Lord. And I want you to kneel down here again and tell the Lord that I want Him to liberate me from that promise. My tithe has grown so large I can’t afford to give it to Him.” And the pastor said, “Fine. Now you kneel down here, and what I’m going to do is: I can’t liberate you from that sacred promise you made to the Lord God, but what I’m going to pray is that God will cut your income back and back and back, as it was when you started, and then you can give your tenth to the Lord.”
“Oh,” said the young man, “don’t tell God that. Don’t do that. I’ll just keep on.”
You know what? It takes a whole lot more to give a tenth to God when you are prospering than it does when you’re eking out an existence. It takes a whole lot more dedication to do it. And the more you make, the bigger the temptation is not to remember God in that covenant.
Rich and poor has nothing to do with it; absolutely nothing. Our stewardship before God is a matter of the heart. And the test of the Christian life is not what we would do if we had all of our neighbor’s possessions, but what we do with the little that we possess. If it’s a dime, one penny of it goes to God. If it’s a dollar, a dime of it goes to God. If it’s $500,000, $50,000 of it goes to God. How much has nothing to do with it. It’s our heart’s reply to the great stewardship God has place in our hands.
There was a fellow talking to a farmer, and said to him, “Tell me, if you had a hundred sheep, would you give fifty of them to the Lord?”
“Yes sir,” he said, “if I had one hundred sheep, I’d give fifty of them to God.”
“Well, if you had a hundred cows, would you give fifty of them to God?”
“Yes sir. I’d give fifty of them to God.”
“Well, if you had a hundred horses, would you gift fifty of them to God?”
“Yes sir. I’d give fifty of them to God.”
“If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to God?”
And he said, “You know, I’ve got two pigs. No, I’m not going to give one of them to God.” Ha! Oh dear, dear, dear, the blessings, the blessings! You’ll win a spiritual victory if you thus enter into a compact with God.
I want to read a parable that is so familiar to you:
Jesus spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: He thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, I have no room where to bestow all my fruits, my increase.
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all of my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God—
and that’s always there—
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this day thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Let me tell you something. You will not keep that tenth that belongs to God. You won’t do it. You can give it to Him and receive an infinite blessing for having dedicated it to God, or you’re going to lose it anyway. God will collect it. All you have got to do is to go with me, and let’s call on some of these big bankers in Dallas. They didn’t tithe. They became rich and kept it for themselves, and they’re bankrupt. All you have got to do is to go with me and look at some of these CEOs, some of these big corporate leaders. They were prospering, oh how they were! And they kept it for themselves, and they faced disaster. You’re not going to keep it. Don’t you think that you will. God will collect it. You’ll have a tragedy; you’ll have an illness; you’ll make a wrong decision. I don’t care how smart you are, you’ll make a wrong decision. You’re going to lose it. You’ll not keep it.
How much better, infinitely better, to say, “Lord, You did this for me. You helped me. You did it, Lord. And I’m Your servant and steward. I’m Your partner, and this is Yours, Lord.” And if you do that, God will multiply and aboundingly bless.
I copied out a sevenfold surprise to a man who’ll take God at His word and set aside what is sacred for Him, that tenth. One, the amount of money he has for the work of the Christian enterprise would be an amazing thing to him. It’ll surprise you; you’d be surprised at the deepening of his own spiritual life. He’ll be surprised with the ease with which he meets all of his obligations; nine-tenths, with the blessing of God, will go infinitely further than ten-tenths and leave Him out of your life. You’ll be surprised at the pleasure you’ll find in thus supporting God’s kingdom. You’ll be surprised at the satisfaction and the practice of that partnership with God. You’ll be surprised at yourself for having not done this year’s sooner, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the blessings and the goodnesses of God.
There is a freedom and a joy in giving that is unsurpassed. So many, when they give, it’s like pulling out a tooth. It’s like enduring an operation. It’s like being full of pain. When God says in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 that giving to God is “hilarious”— that’s the Greek word—hilarious; it’s hilarious; we’ve taken the word, made an English word out of it: it’s “hilarious.” It’s just glad; it’s translated in the King James Version, “cheerful.” Oh, what a privilege!
So this is the partnership and the fellowship we have with our dear Lord. God is in the business of giving. You are an object of His love and care. He makes the sun to shine on the earth; God does that. He doesn’t charge us for it, He gives it. Life and breath: that’s God’s gift. And of course Jesus, for our salvation [John 3:16-17]; and when we remember Him in loving faithfulness and gratitude, we become partners with our Lord in the biggest business in this world: God and we [Genesis 28:22].
I don’t know why sometimes things just impress me. And I do not know why they just, things come to my heart. Well, here’s one of them. Long time ago I made a tour through Africa. And in Nigeria in West Africa, I joined myself with a beloved physician named Dr. Goldie. In a big arch, great big arch through Nigeria, he had gathered together lepers—you call them clans, leper colonies, clans. He gathered all those lepers, and they were taken care of in these colonies. There’d be one here, and then miles and miles and miles, there would be another one; and miles and miles and miles, another one; and miles and miles and miles, another one. In a big arch through western Nigeria, he had those clan colonies, those clan settlements of lepers.
Well, I went with him and I preached to them. Last Sunday, by the way, I mentioned one of them. They had built a mud church. The whole thing was mud. The church was mud. The pulpit was mud. The pews were mud. The pulpit lectern was, the whole thing was made out of mud. And they sang, as I mentioned:
The great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the heavy heart to cheer,
(What kind of a heart? [“Drooping”] Yea.)
Oh! list to the voice of Jesus.
[from “The Great Physician” William Hunter]
That was that song they sang. I tell you, it moved me.
Well, anyway; as I would stand there and watch Dr. Goldie minister to those lepers, he had his car, a little car—he had his car full of medicines and needles and God only knows what all to minister to those lepers. Well, I would stand there and watch him minister to all those lepers, that beloved physician. And this is the thing that came to my heart. And I don’t know why I particularly thought of it then, but oh, it impressed my soul!
As I watched him minister, I thought in my heart, “You know we have a part in that. I have a part in that.” Who pays his salary? We do. Who sent him out as a missionary? We did. And who buys that medicine? We buy it. And who makes possible the gathering of those lepers? As you already know, if a child—and by the way, many of those lepers were little children—if anyone is found with leprosy in that culture, they put them out to die; put them out, push them out. And that’s what the physician did; He gathered up all of those lepers, those children, and gathered them up and was taking care of them. And when I watched him, I say, I felt I had a part in it. He was the doctor, but I was holding up his hands.
That’s a wonderful thing for us. We’re in it with God. God and we are partners. And we’re building His church. And we’re preaching the gospel, and we’re winning the lost, and we’re teaching our children, and we’re building up the kingdom of God. It’s a beautiful thing, and God is in it.
Now I’m going to be standing right here, and we’re going to sing us a song, and if there’s a family you who’d love to come to be with us, welcome. A couple, a one somebody you, if God puts it on your heart to come forward, do it. We’ll have a prayer together; we’ll tell God all about it. And the Lord bless and speed us in our servanthood for Him. You ready? All right, let’s stand and sing.
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The practice
1. Trust – everything comes from God and belongs to God
3. Wisdom in spending
4. Portion income
5. Faithfully set aside for God
1. Spiritual victory
2. Seven-fold heavenly surprise
3. Freedom, joy in giving
4. Fellowship, partnership with God